Thursday, November 26, 2009

Reefer Madness

In response to an article "Why is it bad to smoke weed and OK to sell beer?" by David Sirota at (2009-10-23) - I posted this comment :

Marijuana has had a bad reputation since a campaign in the 1930's by the American press. Randolph Hearst started publishing articles linking cannabis use with violent crime, Blacks and Mexicans. He renamed cannabis "marijuana", dissociating it from the hemp that for generations had been used as medicine, paper, oil, fabric and rope. The stories triggered the support of racist white organizations who wanted cannabis prohibited, and Hearst with his friend Harry Anslinger, the Director of the Bureau of Narcotics, managed to get "marijuana" made illegal in 1937. Prohibition of alcohol ended at the same time.

The advantage for Randolph was that once the hemp, rope and paper industries had been destroyed by this legislation, he was free to use his own pine plantations and paper mills. He also funded movies such as "Reefa Madness" which portrayed a negative image of cannabis related products.

The timing is interesting for other reasons.

Until then, hempseed oil was one of the most common oils used for lighting, lubrication, cooking and as an additive to paint and varnish. After 1935 virtually all of these oils and strong hemp fibre were replaced with petrochemicals and nylon made by Dupont.

Over the next 30 years marijuana was portrayed as a badge of rebellion in films, books and music, reaching cult status with the beatniks and the hippies. It still appears to be as popular as ever and as misunderstood. Nearly 50 years later it still is, but it has lost its 'cool' to the other mind altering substances that are a sign of the times.

All the academic and medical studies of its affects are inconclusive and there are no reports linking it to reckless, violent or dangerous behaviour. There is no evidence that it is a harmful drug. There is no objective analysis of the effects of its use compared to other drugs that are just as commonly available, like alcohol or tobacco.

Smoking marijuana is no longer the act defiance it once was. For $25 you can buy eniugh alcohol to put you in a serious coma or kill yourself. If you smoked $25 of dope, you would probably fall blissfully asleep in front of the TV with a half eaten chocolate bar in your hand.

We have adopted a set of double standards forced on us by past barons of media and industry. Marijuana smokers are hapless victims of the cultural obsession with the with the 'war' on drugs, violence, alcoholism and cancer. It's OK to get out of it, but it seems to matter to the authorities just what substance we abuse to do it. Our means of recreation and enlightenment seem to have to be sanctioned by our government nannies and then these issues will be swept from the public domain and open discussion in a pathetic display of acquiescing to minority opinion.

The continued debate about prohibition, legislation or decriminalization of marijuana highlights the gap between government policy and public perception. Maybe there is just not enough money to be made were its use be legitimized. But you can bet your last reefer, that as soon as the Australian government perfects a way to licence, grow, distribute sell and tax marijuana it will suddenly become legal. The news media will celebrate their victory for public values and the tobacco companies will be already in line for licences to grow, distribute and sell their very own patented version of Mary J.

"The lethal dose of cannabis is a two-kilo block dropped on your head from the 25th floor of a high-rise building." (Quote from a leading British health professional).